Teotenango, Museum and Archaeological Site
By Isabel Forga |
Stimulate your imagination and travel in time by visiting the archaeological site of Teotenango in Tenango del Valle, Mexico.
DISCOVER TEOTENANGO IN YOUR TRIP TO TOLUCA
WHERE IS TEOTENANGO?
In your next visit to the Valley of Toluca, don’t forget to add a field trip to the archaeological site of Teotenango. Even though this pre Hispanic settlement is not as popular as others, we guarantee that you won’t be disappointed by the imposing structures you’ll find there, apart from the museum you’ll have the chance to visit.
This archaeological site is located west of the town of Tenango del Valle in the State of Mexico, around 20 kilometers away from the city of Toluca, on top of the Tetépetl Hill (Stone Hill). Because it’s a rocky area, the city was established on the tableland, and it was the northern part of the hill, at a place called Ojo de Agua, where the first settlers arrived between 650 and 750 A.D. Researchers have defined five different development periods that date from nearly a thousand years ago to the sixteenth century when the population moved to the Spanish villa of Tenango del Valle, after the Spanish conquest.
MEANING OF TEOTENANGO
The name Teotenango comes from the Nahuatl language and can be translated as “place of the divine wall”. It comes from the words teotl (divine), tenamitl (wall) and co (place). Apart from the Mexica culture, there was another important civilization that inhabited the area. It was the Matlatzincas, who must have probably used another name in their own language to refer to the place. However, the Matlatzinca name was lost and the Spanish conquerors used Teotenango as inspiration to name the Villa of Teutenanco, which finally derived in Tenango del Valle, its current name.
DR. ROMÁN PIÑA CHAN ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
The first thing you’ll find when you access the site will be the Román Piña Chan Archaeological Museum, which gets its name from the illustrious Mexican archaeologist. We recommend visiting it before walking up to the archaeological site so that you become familiar with the history of the Preclassic period when the site was established. This museum was built with the purpose of safeguarding the findings from the excavations made between 1970 and 1975, and it’s made up of three permanent exhibit rooms, a temporary exhibit hall and a library. It houses an important collection of pieces from the Central Highland, including stone-made and copper tools, vases and sculptures from the Matlatzinca culture, as well as pieces from the Teotihuacan, Mexica and Aztec cultures. The museum is well distributed and all the information is translated into English; however, you can also pay for a guided tour in case you want a more detailed explanation.
VISIT THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE OF TEOTENANGO
Once you’ve finished visiting the museum, head to the archaeological site. Although walking up the hill is not complicated, DINKtravelers recommends wearing comfortable clothes, hiking boots, and a hat or cap as well as sunscreen. This way you will walk leisurely around the site without worrying about slips, tripping or sunburn.
Teotenango covers an approximate extension of 2 square kilometers and it houses numerous monuments. This is because during its golden years, its inhabitants built pyramids, palaces, ball games and temazcales (similar to steam rooms).
First, you’ll find the Jaguar Square, the main access to the ceremonial site, which gets its name from the bas-relief that you’ll find engraved on a rock on the stairway. The Jaguar Monolith has been interpreted in different ways, all related with the Mexica calendar, but it continues to be analyzed by experts. Follow your visit at the Ball Game, the Temazcal, and the Serpent Structure, called like this because of a prominent rock on which you’ll see an engraved head of a snake that seems to be emerging from the pyramid.
All the remains of these structures make up a fascinating experience that will stimulate your imagination. If you make your visit on weekdays or in the morning, enjoy the silent environment, close your eyes for a moment and use your imagination to travel in time. Without doubt, it will be an experience you won’t forget.